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Understanding Spousal Maintenance Obligations in Illinois

 Posted on April 03, 2015 in Family Law

spousal maintenance, spousal support, Illinois Family LawyerEnding a marriage is often a painful process for everyone involved. Deterioration of the personal relationship between spouses can create tension and bitterness, while children may experience anxiousness regarding a seemingly uncertain future. In addition to its effect on personal feelings and relationships, divorce can also significantly impact the financial future and plans of both spouses, particularly among couples with more disproportionate incomes. The lower-earning spouse may be suddenly left facing an unfamiliar situation without the financial means of being immediately self-sufficient. Spousal maintenance, or alimony as it is known in other states and by the IRS,  may provide a source of relief to a spouse in such circumstances, as prescribed under Illinois law.

When Spousal Maintenance is Appropriate

The purpose of laws related to spousal maintenance is to equitably distribute the financial impact of a divorce between both spouses. Illinois law grants full discretion to the court over the necessity of a spousal maintenance award, but requires the court to consider a number of factors. Considerations include:

  • Needs, income, assets, and earning capacity of each spouse;
  • The effect of family duties on the earning capacity of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  • The circumstantial ability and  time necessary for the seeking spouse to become self-sufficient;
  • Contributions of the seeking spouse to the earning capacity of the other spouse during the marriage;
  • Duration of the marriage, and the lifestyle established;
  • Age and health of each spouse;
  • Any agreements, such as a prenuptial agreement addressing maintenance; and
  • Any other relevant factor.

Creating a Spousal Maintenance Order

If the court decides that an order for spousal maintenance is appropriate, the guidelines under which the award should be calculated are provided in the law. Specifically, the amount to be paid and the duration of the payments must be determined.


The amount of the award is to be calculated based on the gross income of each spouse. The recommended maintenance amount is equal to 30 percent of the supporting spouse's income minus 20 percent of the payee's income. Statutorily, the award plus the payee's income may not exceed 40 percent of the couple's combined income.


The length of a spousal maintenance order is determined according the duration of the marriage. The duration of an order is to be found by multiplying the length of the marriage in years by a percentage factor designated by law. The factors were developed to create longer maintenance orders for longer marriages, and at the court's discretion, permanent maintenance may be ordered for marriages over 20 years.

Spousal maintenance orders may be established that differ from the recommendations specified in the law. The court may only do so, however, upon careful consideration of the case and the entering of findings of fact.

Get Help for Your Case

If you are considering divorce and believe you should be entitled to spousal maintenance, contact an experienced family law attorney in Illinois today. At the Law Offices of Cosmo Tedone and Barbara Morton, P.C., we understand the difficulties you are facing and look forward to providing the help you need throughout every step of the process.

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